October 30, 2008
This November, our communities face the threat of an ill-conceived proposal to repeal the state income tax. Though proponents (a "yes" vote) point to punishing irresponsible government, we believe the initiative would have a disastrous effect on already disadvantaged and oppressed neighborhoods.
With a loss of over 40 percent of the state budget, there would be a brutal cutback in services that would primarily hurt lower income communities and communities of color that do not have the same cushion as wealthier communities and individuals.
Some of our hard-fought victories would be wiped out or severely cut, including youth jobs and programs that have helped keep young people off the streets. Like other city services, those jobs are paid for by state grants. Youth would be hit doubly as state funding for our already failing public schools would be slashed, leaving expensive private schooling the only decent method of education. Read more...
October 27, 2008
Election Day is only a week away, and while most of the attention is focused on the presidential race, on November 4, Massachusetts voters will weigh in on three ballot questions. In addition to taking a stance on marijuana possession and dog racing, (Questions 2 and 3), Question 1 will ask voters to determine the fate of the state income tax.
Let’s look at the facts. Income taxes account for $12 billion or roughly 40 percent of the state budget. A repeal of the state income tax would let an executive with a $200,000 salary collect more than $200 a week, while a full-time minimum wage worker would only get $16 a week.
But what exactly would happen if in just two years the state’s budget was reduced by 40 percent? According to the Coalition for Our Communities, we would see a sharp increase in property taxes as well as other fees that affect lower income families the most. The cost of living would spike, hitting those in lower income communities and communities of color the hardest. Cuts in education would mean less funding for our public schools as well as teacher lay-offs and even school closings in some areas. It would also affect funding for healthcare, law enforcement, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.) as well as the state’s job market in general – a deathwish to the state’s already fragile economy. Read more...
October 24, 2008
The Town Meeting on Public Transportation this Wednesday, sponsored by On the Move (OTM): The Greater Boston Transportation Justice Coalition, addressed issues of the MBTA’s staggering debt. The coalition consists of Boston-based community organizations , including TRU, that have been working together since 2000 for environmentally friendly, reliable public transit that is committed to first class service for all neighborhoods.
Right now OTM is working on legislation that would relieve the T of the $1.8 billion debt that resulted from the Big Dig. This debt originated when Massachusetts was required to improve public transportation to counter the increase in air pollution and traffic congestion the Big Dig caused. The T, a separate entity that is still part of the state government, was given the debt burden by the legislature without adequate funding to pay the debt.
This year the $444 million annual debt payment will be passed on to riders, as it has been since 2000 through a series of fare increases. Another may be announced as early as summer 2009 if the state doesn’t take back the Big Dig debt. Read more...
October 23, 2008
ACE and other environmental groups are concerned that the Patrick administration may lift the decade-long moratorium on new incinerator capacity in Massachusetts when it revises the state’s Solid Waste Master Plan. We believe that keeping the moratorium in place is an environmental justice issue because incinerators, landfills, and trash transfer stations are too often located in lower income communities and communities of color.
There are no rules preventing those types of pollution sources from being placed in already overburdened environmental justice communities.
True sustainability includes ending the throw-away mentality where certain people and land are seen as expendable. In our environmental justice vision, justice and sustainability are inextricably linked. Putting the state on a zero waste plan (reduce, reuse, recycle, and producer take-back) would provide green jobs, help fuel a green economy rather than incinerators, protect public health and be an important step toward sustainability for all. Read more...
October 22, 2008
Over the course of a month this summer, three pedestrians were struck and injured by cars along Washington Street between Dudley Square and Melnea Cass Blvd. These tragedies are common and indicative of the unsafe conditions that traffic congestion creates in Dudley Square. Pedestrians from nearby parks, schools, stores, and housing must contend with cars and buses, often speeding down Ruggles Street, Washington Street and Shawmut Avenue (which bound ACE’s office at 2181 Washington Street).
The numerous red lights around this area create a great deal of stop-and-go traffic; on Washington Street, cars in one direction are often stopped while those heading in the opposite direction speed recklessly. Pedestrians, faced with a lack of clearly delineated crosswalks or signage, are often forced to weave through both stopped and speeding vehicles. This is dangerous and unacceptable in such a vibrant, pedestrian-based commercial district. Traffic congestion, through the danger, noise, blight, and localized pollution it creates, undermines the commercial viability of Washington Street in Roxbury.
Yet, from our decade of working in offices along Washington Street, we believe that the solution to this problem will not come from a car-centered approach. Read more...
October 21, 2008
The financially strapped MBTA is planning an $1.2 billion expansion of the Silver Line bus that would connect the Waterfront and Washington Street routes with a tunnel under the city. The project, supported by business interests, is meant to connect the waterfront and Back Bay with a bus tunnel. However, more efficient transportation alternatives are being overlooked, even though they are significantly less costly.
While the project may be eligible for federal funding, the T will still be putting up at least $500 million. The MBTA is already in financial crisis and the expansion will only lead to further debt. Even the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, Paul Reagan, said in a recent Globe article that the MBTA does not have that kind of money.
"The people that rely on the T the most, people of low income and communities of color, would mainly be the ones paying for this project, and they can't afford it," ACE member John Cater said in the Globe. Read more...
October 20, 2008
In this time of financial uncertainty, lower income communities of color are more reliant on public transportation than ever before. As private vehicles and fuel costs can be prohibitively expensive, many of us depend on the MBTA to get to work and buy groceries for our families. With three fare increases over the past six years, transportation is now the second highest cost for Boston residents, exceeded only by housing. Bostonians cannot afford to pay more for substandard public transit especially with winter heating costs still ahead.
However dire the economic situation, fare hikes and service cuts remain a constant threat in our communities. The MBTA has been swimming in debt with over $8 billion and counting. $1.8 billion is from Big Dig projects required by the state government, yet the state has not accepted any responsibility for this cost. Fare hikes force riders to bear the burden of debt payments that include projects benefiting car owners. Read more...
October 17, 2008
More than 300 people crammed into Hibernian Hall in Roxbury for a public hearing on Boston University's (BU) proposed bioterrorism lab on Tuesday. So many showed up that police closed doors to the public just minutes after the meeting began.
The bioterrorism lab, located in the South End/Roxbury area and funded in large part by federal tax dollars, will house experiments into biological agents including infectious diseases that can be used in biowarfare. Biolabs in the U.S. are classified into four levels according to the danger of pathogens researched. BU's will include a Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4), the highest grade, allowing scientists access to ebola and other deadly viral hemorrhagic fevers for which there are no treatments. As the first BSL-4 to be built in a densely populated urban area, residents are worried that human error could expose thousands to hazards such as deadly airborne viruses.
Though the hearing was supposed to be a public forum, it seems that many people never got a chance to voice their opinion. Read more...
October 16, 2008
Worried about home heating costs this winter? Join Co-op Power's home heating oil buying group!
Co-op Power and Greater Four Corners Action Coalition are creating a home heating oil cap service to ensure protection from unexpected price spikes this season. This service acts as a group insurance plan for Co-op Power members and Affiliate Members. Co-op Power membership fees vary, and you can become an Affiliate member for just $25 per year!
After months of research, Co-op Power has found the best way for members to get fair and stable prices for home heating oil. Instead of signing a pre-buy contract as in the past, a cap service would better benefit folks because prices are actually decreasing right now. Members in Co-op Power’s home heating oil buying group don’t want to be locked into a price that’s too high if the market price goes down, but are also concerned that prices may spike due to extreme weather conditions or other unanticipated events. Read more...
October 10, 2008
While plans for Boston University's (BU) Biolab won't be evaluated until 2010, opposition to this project remains strong. A recent letter to the editor published in the Herald draws attention to the many risks of the project. Attorney Laura Maslow-Armand of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and ACE Board member Dr. Daniel Goodenough authored the piece, highlighting wide security gaps in BU's plan.
Among the laughable safety measures is the assertion that having two UPS or FedEx drivers instead of one handling the transportation of deadly viruses would be adequate to protect against an outbreak. BU also claims that using a "buddy system" in the laboratory would safeguard against "the risk of human error, inattention, and negligence."
Potential blunders at the lab, already built in a densely populated lower income community of color, would be catastrophic in a neighborhood that historically has low access to transportation and medical care. It would be the first Bio Safety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab in the nation to be located in a city center. BSL-4 labs are the highest level of biolabs and deal with the most dangerous pathogens known. Read more...